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Metropolitan Digest / LOS ANGELES COUNTY NEWS IN BRIEF

A Jump-Start : Inner-City Auto Training Center Puts Workers on Road to Better Jobs

July 28, 1993|PAUL FELDMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Nine months after Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. agreed to build a $3-million inner-city automotive vocational training center in conjunction with the Los Angeles Urban League, the first graduates received their diplomas Tuesday.

The 10 students, who completed an eight-week course in air-conditioning repair and maintenance, have been promised entry-level jobs at various auto repair businesses across Los Angeles.

"Last year at this time, I was unemployed and unskilled and I didn't have much hope for the future," said Clarence Germany, 46, a former truck driver and maintenance man, before receiving his diploma. "Today, I have a skill, today I have a job and I have stability in my life."

Germany, a father of five, said his starting salary of $6 an hour at Montgomery Ward & Co. is hardly enough to support a family. "But it's better than what I was getting," he said, adding that he has been promised wage increases.

Other members of the first class range in age from 21 to 48, and include former retail clerks, clerical workers and an out-of-work aerospace production supervisor.

At the time of its inception, the Toyota-Urban League effort was called one of the most important post-riot programs by then-Rebuild L.A. Co-Chairman Peter V. Ueberroth.

City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas on Tuesday praised the program as "a dream come true" and urged more efforts where "major corporations and nonprofits decide to work together constructively and creatively."

Toyota will operate the center, in a former auto dealership on Crenshaw Boulevard, for about three years before turning full control over to the Urban League. Plans call for about 100 inner-city residents a year to receive training in basic auto repair skills.

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